ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to reduce the quarantine period before testing for inbound air passengers from 48 hours to the earliest possible in an effort to bring back more stranded Pakistanis from abroad.
The National Command and Control Centre (NCOC), which oversees the coronavirus response, issued new guidelines for bringing back stranded citizens at the earliest possible time on the directives on the prime minister. The NCOC reduced the quarantine period before testing for inbound air passengers from 48 hours to the earliest possible.
Passengers will be transported to quarantine centers and will stay there until the return of test results, after which they may be quarantined or instructed to self-isolate at home according to the direction of the provincial health authorities.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Moeed Yusuf said that they are working day night to resolve the problems of stranded Pakistanis as per the direction of the Prime Minister.
This current strategy will allow raising the weekly cap for inbound passengers from 7,000-8,000 to 11,000-12,000 under the current policy. Inbound passengers will be allowed a preference between two modes of quarantine, free of cost government quarantine centers or paid government regulated hotels and facilities.
Testing will be conducted as soon as possible after arrival at quarantine facility. Passengers with negative Covid-19 results to be sent home with guidelines on home isolation for completion of 14-day period. Passengers with positive Covid-19 results will be considered differently. Symptomatic patients will be treated as per prescribed health protocols.
Asymptomatic patients from other provinces will be treated as per prescribed health protocols and to be kept in isolation/quarantine facilities until completion of 14 days. Positive cases will not be allowed to return to home province until completion of quarantine period.
Asymptomatic patients from host province will have home quarantine capability reviewed. If the provincial authorities deem home quarantine to be feasible, the patient may be sent home with guidelines on home isolation for 14 days.
Otherwise, patients will be treated as per prescribed health protocols and will be kept in isolation/quarantine facilities until the completion of fourteen day period.
It is also important to note that with the increased number of inbound passengers and keeping in mind the local situation, there may be inevitable delays as quarantine and testing capacities come under stress. The government will continue its capabilities to test patients within 24 hours and release passengers after the return of test results.
Total number of passengers planned from 11-21 May is approximately 11,000, with stranded passengers being repatriated from at least 22 countries. Countries from which majority flights are incoming are UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, USA and Oman.
These policies have been implemented in coordination with provincial authorities, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis.
Yousuf said they are looking at the complete data for inbound passengers, and hope it will allow returning stranded Pakistanis back home without worsening the health situation in the country.
He said the government has been able to repatriate about 23,000 Pakistanis so far, with a total of about 100,000 Pakistanis still registered as stranded across the globe.